Pupils who are Deaf

At Northern Counties School, we have educated Deaf students from the North East and across the UK since 1861 at our site in Jesmond. Throughout that time the school has seen various changes in population, technological advances and approaches to teaching deaf students but have always embraced new practices and technologies in order to enhance learning opportunities of our pupils.

The provision for deaf students at Northern Counties has been specifically developed to meet the needs of those children who have a hearing loss and require a Total Communication approach and who have additional needs as well as their deafness. Provision is suitable for those children who have British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language or who are in the early stages of language development. Our students typically have additional learning difficulties, complex medical needs or require a positive behaviour support focus to help care for their emotional needs. These children especially benefit from a signing environment in which speech and listening skills are promoted but where a visual language model is given a significant emphasis. Our children especially enjoy having peers who sign and provide a social communication group. The students are taught by Teachers of the Deaf who also ensure that their individual needs as deaf learners are met. Learning support workers are trained to at least BSL level 2 or are native BSL users and therapists are specialist in supporting the needs of deaf students.

The students within the Deaf department follow a formal pathway of learning. This includes taking part in subject specific learning that has been adapted to meet their needs. The curriculum is embedded through a thematic approach ensuring lots of opportunities to skill build previous knowledge and stretch and challenge. We offer a range of accreditation including GCSE, Entry Level Certificates, ASDAN and AQA unit awards as well as Pearson Vocational BTEC’s. We also deliver the Duke of Edinburgh Award to our Post 16 students.

Approaches to teaching and learning include:

  • Structured work on understanding and using language including vocabulary development through a Total Communication approach that focuses on and values both English and British Sign Language
  • Use of other means of communication for example, symbols, photographs as appropriate
  • Structured and visual programmes to build the skills of reading, grammar and spelling including shape coding, colourful semantics
  • Social stories and social communication strategies to develop friendship and relationship skills
  • Sensory integration programmes
  • Fine motor/gross motor programmes to support curriculum access and develop independence
  • Programmes to develop phonological recognition and speech production
  • Work in the community to promote communication, independence and personal safety
  • Enabling pupils to achieve accreditation in relation to their specific needs
  • An approach in which we develop language and communication skills with deaf children, young people and their families.
  • A commitment to academic achievement, which enables young people to access the world of work or further education and to be fully functioning members of society.
  • BSL signing classes for young people, families and staff
  • Deaf role models with a number of deaf staff who are learning support workers and teachers.
  • Deaf awareness training for young people, families, staff and other stakeholders (such as social workers).
  • An open-door policy for our families to enable us to work in partnership and to share specific approaches and strategies to enable children achieve their full potential.
  • Work experience placements both within school and with other stakeholders
  • Education within a Total Communication approach – this means that appropriate combinations of speaking, listening, signing, including British Sign Language, Signed Supported English, reading, writing, finger spelling and alternative and augmentative communication aids will all be used to assist the development of language, speech and lip reading skills with the assistance of properly aided residual hearing where appropriate. English and British Sign Language are recognised as distinct languages. Both have equally important roles in the cognitive and linguistic development of our deaf children.
  • Teaching in small groups with high levels of individual support from specialist staff experienced in working with deaf children.